Development of high-speed, low-cost systems to produce composite parts for automotive and other high-volume applications is a major strategy at Engel, a leading global producer of injection molding machinery. The newest iteration of a composite brake pedal, produced in a one-shot automated process, will be shown at NPE2015 in Orlando, Florida, March 23 to 27. NPE, which is held every three years, is the largest plastic event in the Western hemisphere.
“In the next few years we can look forward to strong growth in the injection molding industry, particularly in the field of fiber composite engineering,” says Mark Sankovitch, CEO of Engel North America, which is based in York, Pennsylvania.
Engel established a technology center for lightweight composites in 2012 at the site of its large-scale machine production facility in St. Valentin, Austria. The technology center was created primarily as a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration with international partner enterprises and universities.
Engel and partner ZF-Friedrichshafen will show a geometrically optimized and stress-resistant plastic brake pedal. The concept for manufacturing a hybrid brake pedal from thermoplastic fabric received the Composite Innovations Award in 2011, and has been enhanced by ZF since then. At NPE2015, a continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic semi-finished product (known as thermoplastic fabric) will be heated, preformed in a mold and immediately over molded with polyamide. The system produces ready-to-fit components–no cutting is necessary. The process takes place in an insert 1050H/230 single US injection molding machine equipped with a multi-axis industrial robot and infrared oven.
Thermoplastic fabric offers offer high strength and rigidity. In addition, the product developers at ZF have adapted the layer structure to the component load when designing the brake pedal. This enabled the component weight to be reduced by around 30 percent compared to conventional steel brake pedals—without impairing load-bearing capacity. In addition, the lightweight construction method makes many conventional manufacturing process steps unnecessary, thereby increasing productivity and cutting unit costs.
The control unit of the easix multi-axis robot is fully integrated into the control unit of the injection molding machine. The gripper can enter the mold area during the opening movement, which in turn significantly reduces cycle times.